Thursday 4th August 2017
The banging of the drums summoned the resort guests to the boats, Manta Rays had been spotted in the channel. All around us cruisers jumped into their dingies and we all raced to the shallow passage that runs between Naviti and Drawaqa Islands where the Mantas come to feed.
The scene above water was fairly chaotic five or six resort boats, half a dozen dingies, two or three large groups of snorkellers and a couple of dozen individual swimmers all jostled for space. Our hopes of a close up sighting were not that high, we couldn't imagine the Rays would join this melee. But then a resort guide raised his hand nearby, everyone swam towards him, we slipped into the water from our dingy and there just a few feet below us was a huge Manta. A gasp from Gilly, a squeal from me, we could hardly believe what we were seeing.
We spent over an hour swimming with these majestic creatures, at over 4m across they filled our vision, they glided over the coral with just the slightest undulation of their wings, swooping gracefully to turn, ignoring the excited crowds above them. Effortlessly flying against a current that took significant energy for us to overcome, gradually the crowds fell away and the years of pounding up and down swimming pools gave Matt and I the advantage, we swam alone with one Ray, escorting it out towards the open sea. At one point it drifted to the surface coming within touching distance and revealing a community of cleaning fish on its underside, he seemed unbothered as Matt dived around him snapping photos. Such an amazing experience and a real privilege.
When we managed to drag our eyes from the Mantas we realised that the pass was brimming with other fish. Shoals of a thousand Blue Chromis, Yellow Tailed Snapper and an almost translucent, filter feeding, rather scary, unidentified fish that seemed to dislocate its jaws to open them abnormally wide in its bid to scope up as much plankton as possible.
N.B. Apparently the filter feeders mentioned above and pictured below are Long Jawed Mackerel, thanks Cindy.
Team Raya returned to the boat awestruck, decision taken to go again tomorrow.
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I’ve packed my cosi. Room for one more?!
What wonderful experiences you have had with the mantas. Roz has given us news of your trip and told yesterday about the snorkelling. She sent me the link so I have just been looking at your voyage which of course meant I have been completely sidetracked looking at Pacific Islands on charts and remembering our underwater experiences with big fish and mammals. Can’t remember where I dived in Fiji but I see you have visited Taveuni and I hope the soft corals are still fabulous. Wishing you many more manta, whale shark and whale encounters in your wonderful adventures.
Thanks Trudy, glad it brought back some happy memories. Taveuni reefs badly bashed by Cyclone Winston last year but recovering well.